I usually focus on the practical application of techniques on this website, but today I’m actually going to focus on technique itself. I think this one is important, as it can greatly enhance the power of your punches and other strikes.
The Karate masters of old often taught that we should use our body like a “whip”, but this is not always easy to do, especially if you practice a predominantly linear style. In practically all sports, power is generated from the hips, transferred to the shoulders, then to the arms/hands. However, people often struggle to do this in linear styles. I believe that this is because we are often taught that everything finishes together, whereas in most other activities they are taught to move in sequence. I believe that this is partly brought about by the fact that we focus (kime) into one spot, whereas in most other disciplines (including other sports) they move through their target. When a golfer hits the ball, he does not stop there, he moves right through it (as does anybody using any kind of racket or bat to hit something). When somebody throws a ball, they do not stop at the instance of release, they move through that point.
Yet with a linear punch, we stop dead at the point of focus, especially in basic form. Even in freestyle, at the point of focus we strike and retract rather than moving through, and I think this is what causes the problem for so many. Many people end up moving the shoulder and hips together, rather than in sequence like everybody else. The only way we can move shoulder and hip together is by tightening the muscles of our torso and locking them together.
Yet we are always told that we should be as relaxed as possible and that movement comes from the hips . . . . . . . or as some would say, the Hara (Japanese) or Dan Tien (Chinese).
If we are locking the shoulders and hips together, we cannot be completely relaxed. Also, movement cannot be said to come from the hips (Hara/ Dan Tien) as the whole torso moves as one.
If we truly generate the power from the hips and we are truly relaxed in out torso, then the hips should move first, creating a small rotational stretch in our body as the shoulders are left fractionally behind. When stretched, the body naturally wants to return to its original shape, so the shoulders will start to rotate as well, just fractionally behind the hips. However, as we are not actually focusing on our shoulders and the torso is relaxed, there will be a feeling of the shoulder and arm being “thrown” by the hip, rather than having to focus on moving them and extending the arm.
Chinese circular styles seem to achieve this whip like feeling more easily as a circular techniques goes through its target and does not stop at the point of impact (unlike a basic linear punch). Some of the modern day masters talk of a putting in a waveform motion. The Russian martial art, Systema (The System) also talks of a waveform. This is often compared to the standard Karate/TKD punch and advocated as being much more powerful. However, I believe that this is because most people are not really aware of how to put the waveform into their linear technique. Using the method described above and demonstrated in the video below, it is relatively easy to get this waveform (whip) into a linear punch.
I must put in one disclaimer however, and that is that many advanced Karateka/TKD practitioners do this naturally as they learn to relax. However, I don’t think that most of them are actually aware of the mechanics of it, certainly very few will explain it in this manner.
When I’ve shown this before, I’ve had people say that they loved it, but had never seen anything like it in their own club. I believe that I may have “re-framed” things a bit, but everybody should be training this way. By re-framing it I hope to make it clearer; I am not introducing something new here. If this concept is new to you, please give your feedback below on what you think of it. If you have been taught this concept, but this video makes it clearer please tell me. If you think I’m a mad Karate heretic, then say so 🙂